It has been said that the threat of violence rules the world. It’s a scary thought, though the threat of mayhem often makes for delicious suspense in the entertainment world. That’s particularly true in the new STAR WARS saga entitle AHSOKA. It’s a slow-burn of a sci-fi western, if you will, preoccupied with the threat of violence that exists in its title character, a stoic Jedi ‘gunslinger’ always on the cusp of pulling out her dual light sabers to keep the peace.
In the series that premieres Wednesday, August 23 on Disney Plus, Ahsoka Tana is a slyly self-aware heroine from a galaxy far, far away. The semi-Jedi fronts her own show this time after being a STAR WARS scene-stealer in various books, comics, animated series, and the second season of THE MANDALORIAN. In that show, Rosario Dawson essayed the role, the first live-action portrayal of the character, and she brings the same quiet stoicism to this outing as well. Ahsoka has great fighting skills, as she shows in the very first scene, slicing and dicing through a few droids in search of a secret map that she found first. She makes mincemeat out of them, and then returns to her normative state, quiet as a cat, waiting for the next time when she’ll need to pounce.
Dawson is great at simmering. She is one cool customer here, paying homage to Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name and Alan Ladd’s Shane as brooding is turned into art. Dawson’s pretty funny too, reacting to the various higher-strung characters surrounding her. The first is one nervous Nelly, an accompanying Jedi droid named Huyang (voiced by a stiff-upper lipped David Tennant) who is constantly trying to instruct the maverick on proper protocol. Next, is Ahsoka’s friend, General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a happy warrior, but an anxious one too. Hera wants to pre-empt any coming carnage and hopes to employ Ahsoka ASAP to stave off any excess conflict.
Finally, there is Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), a Mandalorian warrior who just so happens to be Ahsoka’s former apprentice. She’s mixed up in all these machinations as well, suspected by two villainous Empire sympathizers who believe she’s in possession of Ahsoka’s map. The baddies are Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson), an elegant and graying mercenary who was once a prestigious Jedi, and his protege, an itchy, trigger-finger named Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno).
It’s a sly vamp on screenwriting convention that the selfish and anti-authority teen that is Sabine is rendered likable when she saves a stray cat. She feeds the curious kitty and takes it indoors for safekeeping, showing that she is more than chipped nails and chipped shoulders. By the second episode, Sabine joins Ahsoka and Hera in their fight to preserve the order and as upcoming episodes suggest, there will be more hellzapoppin’ when Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) returns. He and Ahsoka were once close as she was his apprentice, but she quit his tutelage when she sensed him going to the Dark Side.
The first two episodes move a touch too slowly, with some plot points even getting over-explained for either forgetful audiences or younger ones. Writer/creator Dave Filoni does better with his exceptional production values on display in the first two episodes, along with gorgeous sets and production values. The visual effects are solid, though some of the costuming of the local guard borders on silliness. They’re stuck wearing head gear that looks like a cross between pith helmets and mushroom caps. No matter, Dawson looks exquisite, fierce and sultry in her orange skin, blue eyes, and head-to-toe leather ensemble.
One could argue that Disney is throwing far too many STAR WARS sagas our way, but AHSOKA is one that definitely is worth a look. She’s a strong character, one with a robust history, and it’s always great to see a female in the lead in any film or show. How nice is it as well that the two main supporting characters are also multi-dimensional women? Additionally, I’m looking forward to the series showcasing Ahsoka’s mix of nurturing with her killer instincts. And who knows, maybe her old friend the Mandalorian will stop by to give her advice on how to balance vicious violence with compassionate caretaking. This is the way, right?